Public culture and the Taiwan imaginary : freedom, the nation and welfare
This thesis attempts to develop a fresh perspective on the study of political development. By drawing on the experience of Taiwan's postwar political trajectory while critically appropriating the existing concepts relevant in the field, I employ 'public culture' as a new conceptual tool for understanding and explaining political change. Public culture is defined as the process of public deliberation in which public intellectuals as well as the general public are engaged, public consciousness is formed and contested, and public consensus to various degrees is arrived at. Central to the concept of public culture is the role of political ideology and intellectual articulation and debates in social evolution and transformation. Modernisation theories and 'transitology' remain dominant in the comparative study of political development. The public culture perspective developed in this thesis counters the economic determinism of modernisation theory and the elitism of transition theory while retaining the historical and structural approaches typical of the former and attention to the role of elite actors characteristic of the latter. Public culture is an attempt to provide an angle from which the context and text of ideological discourses and their sociopolitical implications can be analysed for a better explanation of Taiwan's experience. This thesis demonstrates that Taiwan's postwar public culture is featured by a twin development of liberalism and nationalism against the backgrounds of the Second World War, Chinese Civil War and Cold War. In the same context welfarism as social justice emerged as another influential discourse. Postwar Taiwan's institutional change from authoritarianism to liberal democracy reflects this feature.